With the offseason dragging on without much action on the free agent market, it’s clear that a number of teams are comfortable and confident enough to play opportunities off of each other. We can wait on this guy at that rate, or that guy at this rate. *leans back in chair, vapes*
The Cubs are in a relatively enviable position, having plenty of cash available to go after a marquee free agent, but also having a loaded roster, and a rotation that could be above average overall without another addition. To that end, maybe none of us should be surprised that so long as three agreeable options – Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, and Jake Arrieta – remain on the free agent market, the Cubs remain content to try to get the right deal from whichever pitcher will take it.
To that end, even as most of the conversation lately has been about Darvish and Cobb – and the interplay between the Cubs’ pursuits of each – Arrieta is still not entirely off the radar for a return to the Cubs.
Sources tell Bruce Levine that the Cubs have “renewed interest” in bringing Arrieta back, and they have actually been one of the two teams “showing the most interest,” together with the Cardinals. (The Cardinals, it seems, are in a similar spot as the Cubs, content to be in on a number of free agents, and waiting for the right deal to fall in their laps.) Any time the two clubs are mentioned together, you have to wonder if there’s some gamesmanship going on. That said, there’s a fit for each team (as well as several other clubs that you’d think would be in on Arrieta, including the Rangers, Mariners, Twins, and Brewers).
Are the Cubs really serious about re-upping with Arrieta, though? At last check, there was a huge disconnect in the length of deal Arrieta was seeking, and the length the Cubs were willing to offer. One report recently suggested the Cubs were hoping they could get Cobb on a three-year deal, Darvish on a four-year deal, or Arrieta on a five-year deal, though those were not necessarily hard-and-fast lines.
To that end, Bob Nightengale says the Cubs would be willing to go to four years and $110 million on Arrieta. That’s an enormous AAV, which you’ve gotta figure the Cubs would prefer to avoid (for luxury tax purposes, a five-year, $120 million deal is much better than a four-year, $110 million deal). Then again, any time you can get a pitcher of Arrieta’s caliber (entering his age 32 season) on a four-year deal, that’s worth considering. Moreover, if the Cubs plan on eclipsing the luxury tax cap next offseason anyway, then they might as well make sure they get the best arm they can right now (staying under the luxury tax cap for this season) while other teams are forced to sit out. For now, though, there is no indication that Arrieta and his agent Scott Boras have backed off the six to seven-year range that has always been floated.
I tend to think there’s just a big waiting game going on, featuring a whole lot of chicken. The Cubs probably have a preference among Cobb, Darvish, and Arrieta, but those preferences are probably guided by the price levels they’d accept. At the first indication one of the three is will to take the deal the Cubs deem appropriate, I’m guessing the Cubs would pull the trigger.
That doesn’t mean the Cubs will definitely get one of those three, but with the way the offseason has played out, and with so many big-market teams sitting out, it’s going to be viewed as a whiff if the Cubs don’t. I guess we’ll see how much they get.